Florida representative Donna Shalala (D.) told constituents "you bet" that there are socialists in the Democratic Party's "big tent." She added that she doesn't apologize for reaching across the aisle to get bipartisan bills passed.
A video from America Rising PAC shows the congresswoman addressing constituents during a town hall.
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"I escaped a socialist country 25 years ago," an audience member said. "I hear a lot of people from your party supporting socialist ideas in America. How far are we going to go, do you think we can beat the current president with those ideas? What would be our choices?"
"Well, first of all, I'm not a socialist. I'm a safety net capitalist," Shalala responded. She explained she supports entitlement programs and "protecting the most vulnerable people in our society."
Shalala then downplayed the presence of socialist ideas in the party.
"Second, you have misread the Democratic Party," she said. "Because if anything, when we flipped the House with 40 new seats and new freshmen, 98 percent of them flipped seats that were previously held by Republicans and they expanded the center of the Democratic Party, not the left of the Democratic Party. So I don't hear a lot of socialism in the Democratic caucus."
"Are there socialists in the Democratic Party? You bet. Because we're a big tent party. We have all of the above."
"The Democratic Party has expanded, the caucus has expanded the centrists," Shalala said. "It's hard enough to manage Democrats, but Speaker Pelosi does a good job."
Shalala discussed her bipartisan credentials through her work on bills concerning the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. "A number of my bills are bipartisan and I don't apologize for that," she said.
She also spoke out in favor of a bill that would have provided temporary protected status for Venezuelan refugees that was co-sponsored by Republican Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.) and Democrat Darren Soto (Fla.).
"If I can get people and reach across the aisle, then that's what I'm going to do," she concluded.